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'It's not affordable if they cost €600,000': questions over house prices at 'new suburb' in Poolbeg

The 37-acre Poolbeg site in Ringsend is one of the last large-scale pieces of development land left in Dublin city.

90181994 The former Irish Glass Bottle site at Poolbeg Source: Eamonn Farrell/Photocall Ireland

OPPOSITION PARTIES have raised concerns over the delivery of social and affordable homes at Poolbeg in Dublin after developer Johnny Ronan announced plans to proceed with the first part of a major redevelopment. 

The 37-acre Poolbeg site in Ringsend, Dublin 4, is one of the last large-scale pieces of development land left in Dublin city with up to 3,800 homes planned for what has been described as a ‘new suburb’ for the city. 

A deal was reached last week between Ronan Group Real Estate, Oaktree Capital Management, Lioncor Developments and the National Asset Management Agency (Nama) on the development of homes on part of these lands after the consortium was selected in 2019 to redevelop the site. 

The new ‘Pembroke Quarter’, which will be built on the old Irish Glass Bottle site, is due to include 1,000 social and affordable homes, according to the Ronan Group. 

The site forms part of the Poolbeg Strategic Development Zone (SDZ) which local councillors approved in 2019. 

Under planning laws, 10% of the new homes must be sold to Dublin City Council for social housing. However, in May 2017, in order to secure councillors’ approval for the redevelopment plans, then-Minister for Housing Simon Coveney agreed that an additional 650 affordable homes would be built at Poolbeg. 

An agreement has not been reached with the consortium on how to deliver affordable homes at the site – and how much these units will cost to buy. 

Speaking to The Journal, Dublin City Council’s head of housing Brendan Kenny said the local authority will now enter negotiations with the developers to discuss how the social and affordable units will be delivered. 

“The overall deal hasn’t been worked out but no development can commence until there’s an agreement on that 15% [affordable housing]” he said.

“It’s hugely important to deliver housing in the Dublin area at the moment, particularly affordable and social and we’ve every confidence they will be delivered,” said Kenny, adding however that house prices in the Dublin 4 area creates a tension around what exactly affordable looks like. 

“House prices will be the issue down there…we just don’t know what the [affordable] prices are going to be. If the prices are €600,000, €700,000, well, then that’s not affordable and we’ll have to see what kind of further intervention is needed,” said Kenny. 

Pembroke Quarter 2 A computer-generated image of the proposed Pembroke Quarter redevelopment

It was revealed earlier this year that a disagreement between the Council and the Department of Housing in 2019 collapsed plans to purchase the lands at Poolbeg for affordable housing. 

The Business Post reported in January that the deal fell apart after the local authority and the Department failed to agree who should buy part of the old Irish Glass Bottle site. 

The lands in question were later included in the Poolbeg development project brought to market by Nama in 2019. The consortium of Ronan Group Real Estate, Oaktree Capital Management, and Lioncor then secured the contract to develop the whole site.

Nama had sought bids from developers of more than €125 million for an 80% stake in the Irish Glass Bottle site.

It is understood that the final price paid was significantly in excess of this amount, which has lead Sinn Féin housing spokesperson Eoin O’Broin to question how the affordable units will be delivered given the significant price tag attached to lands. 

Screenshot 2021-06-08 17.13.25 - Display 2

“The real issue is how they’re now going to deliver the affordable [units] and no agreement has been reached on that,” O’Broin told The Journal. 

“Don’t forget that Nama offered to sell the land on which the affordable homes will be built at a discount to Dublin City Council, the Department wouldn’t fund them and [the developer] has now paid over the guideprice for that.

“The real question of how will affordable homes be delivered on this site is ultimately a question for the Department and the Council, but I would be concerned at the way in which this development is moving,” said O’Broin. 

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Labour Senator Rebecca Moynihan, meanwhile, has raised concerns in the context of Poolbeg about the government’s Affordable Housing Bill which effectively ties the affordability of a unit to market value and sets caps on the cost of ‘affordable homes’ around the country. 

Moynihan told The Journal she is concerned that over time the provisions of the Bill could be undermined due to inflation or developer costs – which could in turn drive up prices for affordable units at Poolbeg. 

“The Department needs to confirm the funding for the affordable units and what the tenure type is going to be,” said Moynihan. 

Labour statement 003 Labour Party Senator Rebecca Moynihan Source: Sam Boal

Nama chief executive Brendan McDonagh said on Friday the affordable homes would be provided. “The 25 per cent allocated to social and affordable units will provide homes to those most in need, close to the heart of Dublin.”

The site benefits from fast-track planning following the approval by An Bord Pleanála of strategic development zone (SDZ) designation for the lands.

The developers aim to begin construction at the site at the start of 2022. The plans also include one million sq ft of commercial space, educational facilities, civic spaces and community amenities.

NAMA will hold on to a 20% stake in the development, with the other members of the consortium holding the remaining 80%.

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